Letter from ER doctors describes ‘crisis’ at Surrey Memorial Hospital which is hurting patients

Dozens of doctors working inside B.C.’s busiest emergency room have released a scathing letter describing an unrelenting ‘crisis’ at the department, saying the local health authority has ‘repeatedly’ told them asked to keep the details of the situation public.

Medical professionals at Surrey Memorial Hospital said it had become necessary to speak out in breach of communication protocol, as health officials were not transparent about the dire reality of overcrowding and lack staff in the establishment.

More than 35 emergency physicians at the hospital have backed the one-page letter which says patients are suffering and in some cases dying in the hallways from “steadily worsening” conditions.

“We have repeatedly sounded the alarm to our regional and provincial leaders; these alarms have been ignored,” reads the letter dated Friday and obtained by CBC News.

“Furthermore, these conditions have been poorly and incompletely communicated to the public. We believe that patients and the public deserve honesty. Fraser Health has repeatedly told ER physicians not to openly discuss our ‘challenges’ with the audience.”

CBC News is withholding the doctors’ identities because they fear professional repercussions for publishing the letter.

Surrey Memorial Hospital is pictured March 6, 2023. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

“It’s scary, and we know we’re going to come down on this. All we want to do is go to work and care for our patients in a reasonable way – and we feel like there’s some truth to it. incomplete that has been said,” a doctor said in an interview.

“When a patient comes into the emergency department and sees how busy they are, they see patients in the hallways and hallways, there’s a natural feeling that the emergency department is failing – and, really, the emergency department fails,” they added. .

“But the failure isn’t because of your frontline emergency doctors, your nurses, your allied staff… It’s actually the system that your emergency providers are failing at, and we don’t we don’t have the resources to provide safe and appropriate care to all patients.”

3 key questions, says the letter

The letter said three critical issues contributed to the problem.

First, the lack of acute care beds means that already admitted patients occupy a room usually reserved for incoming emergencies.

“This bed block requires us to routinely treat strokes, heart attacks, trauma, miscarriages, and hospice patients in the hallway,” the letter reads.

Second, doctors said there were not enough hospital workers to admit patients from the emergency room to other departments, meaning patients linger in the emergency room for days. Doctors said some die while waiting.

Third, the letter states that elected leaders have provided no “meaningful solution” to the problem.

The doctor who spoke in an interview said doctors decided to release the statement on Monday after previous letters sent “throughout the food chain”, including Colombia’s health ministry British, have not resulted in accountability or transparency.

“We felt like we’d exhausted all other options…Even though our group felt threatened and intimidated to release this, we believe it’s important to get this information out despite our own anxieties,” they said.

“We don’t like to use the media to communicate this message. We want to work with our internal partners, but unfortunately those relationships are failing.”

The doctor said patients were “really piled on top of each other” on a daily basis in the emergency room. They said vulnerable patients are affected more than others, including the elderly and those at risk of experiencing a mental health crisis.

CBC News has contacted the British Columbia Ministry of Health and Fraser Health for comment.

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